Saturday, 28 April 2012

Leveson gets political (and unattributed)

The Leveson Inquiry will apparently not expand its remit to consider Jeremy Hunt's handling of the NewsCorp/BSkyB affair in relation to the ministerial code.

A sensible move, given the inquiry was not set up with this in mind. After all it is an inquiry into the Culture Practices and Ethics of the Press, not of the cabinet. No doubt such an inquiry would prove just as intriguing, but for better or worse we don't have one of those.

So instead we are left wondering how the Government will respond, since Strategy A has apparently failed.  But what to make of Leveson's move to stop the Hunt issue going into the long grass?

Yes he has done what seems perfectly sensible, namely stopping his Inquiry being used to save a ministerial career.

But the way it has come out seems a little odd. The Daily Mirror for example are simply quoting an Inquiry Source rather than Lord Justice Leveson.

Could be that this is simply a way of making the official inquiry spokesman sound a bit more like a juicy confidential source. But it if this really is the view of the Leveson Inquiry why can't whoever it is just go on the record with their name, or better still have it come straight from Leveson himself?

Hopefully there isn't anything in it, but why give unattributed quotes to the Daily Mirror, the most anti-Coalition paper, and risk looking like the Inquiry is on their side?

The Hunt affair has risked turning the inquiry into something of a political play thing, with opposition MPs pressing the Inquiry not to become a get out clause for JH, and the Government pushing the other way. Whatever the Inquiry does it will unavoidably have party political implications.

Given the important and wide ranging issues the Inquiry is dealing with, Leveson needs to make sure his eventual report gets a fair hearing from both press and Government when ti finally reports. 

There is a delicate balancing act to be done between corners of the press which view the inquiry as a wheeze dreamt up by politicians to stop them scrutinising their behaviour too much, and embarrassing the Government to the point of antipathy to Leveson.

Perhaps you can't do one without the other, but it has to be hoped that Leveson maintains the Independence he has scrupulously shown so far, and doesn't leave his Inquiry open to any charges of having an agenda.

Other than better standards for the press, of course.

Update: The mystery continues over where that quote came from. Try Googling it. All I could find was PoliticsHome's reuse of the above tweet. It doesn't appear to have made it into the Mirror's coverage, nor any other papers' for that matter.

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